Senate Women – A Glimpse of “Grait-ness”

Two New York Times headlines leapt out at me this morning:
Senators Near Fiscal Deal and
Senate Women Lead Effort to Find Accord

The current U.S. government impasse has been a grit-fest. It’s been like watching “Godzilla Meets King Kong” – two opposing beasts slugging it out to the death, laying waste to everything in their path. In Washington, four weeks into a government shutdown and on the brink of default, Godzilla and King Kong are going at it tooth and nail, and there’s wreckage everywhere you look.

This is what happens when grit takes control. Unmediated, the productive forces of clarity and determination devolve into bullying and intimidation. The positive ability to stand for one’s own point of view goes sour with overuse, severing the relationships that are crucial to moving forward. The result? Utterly predictable, mutually-assured destruction.

So what heals a grit-fest? It’s not just a matter of calling in the ‘grace squad’ and ceding our positions. Caving does not mend a deep divide. It simply drives the conflict underground. What’s needed is a third way, where grit and grace are integrally combined and leveraged together, creating a wholly new form of power. Not grit or grace; not sometimes-grit and sometimes-grace. Rather, “grait” – where the two energies are linked in an inextricable partnership. Grait-ness happens when we are both bold and related at the same time and in the same action. In acts of graitness, you can’t parse out the care from the courage. They’re both on line and in full force in every moment.

Examples of graitness have been in short supply of late. But enter Susan Collins, Republican from Maine, who shows us how it’s done. According to the New York Times:

“Frustrated with the lack of progress, Ms. Collins, a Republican, quickly zipped out a three-point plan that she thought both parties could live with, marched to the Senate floor and dared her colleagues to come up with something better. A few days later, two other Republican female senators eagerly signed on — Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. The three Republican women put aside threats from the right to advance the interests of their shutdown-weary states and asserted their own political independence.

Two powerful women on the Democratic side of the aisle — Senators Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland and Patty Murray of Washington — took a hard line and pressed their Republican counterparts to temper their demands, but they also offered crucial points of compromise. Together, the five senators starkly showed off the increasing power of women.”

Ms. Collins and her bi-partisan partners have taken decisive action, held each other to account and taken great political risk. But there’s more than grit in play. In each step, they are kicking ass with their hearts open. Fueling their independent actions is a desire for the collective well-being. Within their forcefulness lies a core of humility.

“I probably will have retribution in my state,” Ms. Murkowski said. “That’s fine. That doesn’t bother me at all. If there is backlash, hey, that’s what goes on in D.C., but in the meantime there is a government that is shut down. There are people who are really hurting.”

These Senators have had real impact where others have remained impotent. I think it’s because of how they have wielded their power. They have shown us what possibilities lie beyond the potential of the either/or approach to power. Instead, they have modeled a form of integrated power that is durable, productive and potentially transformative. They have given us a glimpse of graitness.

What about you?

Have you ever experienced graitness in yourself?

How did that differ from when you have leaned heavily toward either grit or grace, or when you have toggled between the two?

What did graitness enable you to do that was new or different? How did it transform the situation?

Have you ever experienced graitness in someone else? What can you learn from him or her as you make your own journey to graitness?